Take 100 photos of a room and 3 other exercises you can do at home
So you’ve been quarantined for a few days and you feel like you’ve gone through half the Netflix catalogue and video-called pretty much everyone you know. If you’re a photographer, you find yourself missing the thrill of taking new pictures. But unless you specialize in still lifes or self-portraits, you might think you’ve been cut off from any valuable photography subject. Look around you, and think again. Whether you’re confined in your family home or in a small apartment in a big city, chances are you haven’t exhausted all your possibilities.
Mayaz Dimashki is a self-taught photographer who has been practicing his craft for 10 years. He has turned his passion into a career and now works as a producer at Meero. But when he started dabbling in photography, he mostly relied on online seminars and tutorials. This taught him to be resourceful and to make the most of every occasion to learn. So we went to him for advice.
Here are four exercises he recommends to photographers currently under lockdown.
1 - Take 100 pictures of every room
Lockdown or no lockdown, here’s an exercise Mayaz swears by. He would recommend it in a heartbeat to any beginner photographer who comes to him for advice.
The instructions are simple: just enter any room, shut the door behind you, and take 100 pictures before you get out. Your first pictures will be pretty standard, and similar to any interior photographs. But as you exhaust the most common and obvious angles, you will get more creative. For Mayaz, this is precisely why this exercise is so efficient: it forces you to be creative in situations that you don’t think you can be creative in. You will find yourself taking surprisingly imaginative photos of the mundane, the ordinary. As French writer André Gide once famously said, “art is born of constraint.” And the constraint of being locked in a room might be the one thing that pushes you to create your most inventive work yet.
If you’re learning photography, you might allocate a lot of time to perfecting your technical skills. While you need to learn techniques to become a good photographer, it is equally important to train your gaze. By looking at the world around you in a different way, you will start finding interesting photography subjects that you might have overlooked a thousand times before. This exercise will develop your attention to detail and help you find interesting takes on your future assignments. For Mayaz, the photos you take don't have to be of art-expo quality. They're just for practice !
While the particular architecture of every room will impose certain types of photos, this is the general progression Mayaz advises: you can start with wide angle shots to portray the entire room. You can then move on to medium shots focusing on particular objects and take close-ups of any interesting pattern or design you can spot. In 100 pictures, you are likely to go through the whole spectrum of photos you can take.
© Mayaz Dimashki
2 - Capture moving objects
When asked about the best photos he has taken while practicing his 100-photos exercise, Mayaz recalls a particular toothbrush experiment: while taking photos of his bathroom, he quickly found himself running out of options. So he threw his toothbrush in the air and tried to capture it mid-fall. The resulting pictures were some of the most interesting he has taken around his house. Which brings us to our second exercise: training yourself to take pictures of moving objects.
If you’re lucky enough to be locked in with other people, then you can try to convince them to walk briskly around the house for you (find a nice trade-off… we hope you know how to cook!). If your pet has been feeling particularly restless these past few days, then now’s the time to take advantage of their endless running around and tail-chasing that disturb your video calls (and your sleep)… or to play fetch. Otherwise, you can, like Mayaz, resort to throwing your stuff in the air (don’t break anything!).
The idea is to take clear photos of things or people that are moving. It might be hard to keep the focus and you will be forced to find the right camera settings to capture the movement adequately. Those skills will sure come in handy if you ever are on an assignment to photograph an event, or even if your goal is to specialize in street or wildlife photography.
The photos you take during these exercises don't have to be of art-expo quality. They're just for practice !
- Mayaz Dimashki, producer at Meero
3 - Take good photos in a bad situation
Bad environments are just like death and taxes. If you’re a professional photographer, there’s no way to avoid them. You will sooner or later find yourself on an assignment having to take pictures with not enough light, that are back-lit or over-exposed.
While you can’t do anything about that, you can train yourself to take better pictures in these suboptimal situations. How? By recreating them on purpose.
For instance, in the late afternoon or early evening, you can turn off the light in the living room and try to take pictures with that bad lighting so you’re forced to learn how your camera operates. This will help you next time you’re trying to take photos outdoors.
And speaking of natural light, if you’re curious to know how professionals take photos at night, this tutorial available on the myMeero platform is made for you.
© Mayaz Dimashki
4 - Now look back on the work you've done!
Now the time has come to put down your camera and reflect. The three exercises we have given you will be incomplete if you don’t take the time to go through one last step: looking back at all the photos you have taken and trying to learn from them. This is what Mayaz used to do after each of his training sessions.
According to Mayaz, the reason why digital photography has helped many people become a better photographer is that it has made it possible to take a lot of pictures without wasting resources. You don’t have to be sparing with the pictures you take.
But taking countless photos won’t do you any good if you don’t go through them afterwards. Browsing the photos will help you understand your strengths and weaknesses and know what you have to work on. If a certain photo is not very well exposed for instance, and if you still remember the setting you used, you can conclude that this particular setting is not optimal for a given environment. The key is finding your flaws and focusing on your problem areas to develop your photography.
And who knows, some of the photos you have taken during these exercises might just be good enough to be featured in your portfolio or Instagram account.
Bonus tip: dedicate some time to other skills
A lockdown might be just the right time to develop some of the other skills you need to be a professional photographer. It’s not photography per se, but you’re going to need to master them sooner or later if you want to make it as a photographer. From editing, to building your online presence, to practicing other artforms, here are 6 ways you can spend your time that would be beneficial for your photography career.